Portrait Ten - Writer Adam Weymouth and Osteopath and Musician Ulli Mattsson from the refugee camp of Lesvos in Greece

We discovered Ulli and Adam through H&B. Adam has won a few awards for his latest book and has worn our shirts to receive these awards. Which we feel very honored about! They have a fascinating life together working on their individual projects, currently living as volunteers on one of Europe's worst refugee camps on the island of Lesvos, Greece. Here they are on a trip around Greece, sadly we are still yet to meet but we are delighted to be able to share a bit about their inspirational lives with you..

 

 

Adam and Ulli it’s been great to hear about some of your projects, we’re looking forward to finding out more. 

Firstly tell us about your backgrounds and how you met? 


A: We were both living on boats in London when we met, mostly on the River Lea. I was on a little narrowboat, and doing some work in a boatyard in Essex, working on a friend's boat. Ulli was in the same boatyard, restoring a Dutch barge from 1907 that she found in Holland, and which we both now live on.  We got talking. Ulli helped me out with a lot of advice on boat work, I helped her move a huge copper bath into her boat, one thing led to another...


U: That's how we met and my background is in music and in restoring old things, Adam is a writer. 

 

You are currently both living and working as volunteers in Lesvos, Greece. One of the largest refugee camps in Europe. Ulli you mentioned Becky’s Bathhouse. Tell us a bit about how you ended up at this particular camp how the bathhouse came about and what your daily routine looks like? 


U: I'm an osteopath and I wanted to bring my skill to people in need, to people that don't have access to healthcare. I initially propositioned to start my clinic, Osteopathy for Refugees, in the bathhouse but was asked if I could coordinate the whole project, and I thought it would make make sense to combine the two into a wellness centre. 

 

We offer a safe place for women and children who live in Moria refugee camp, to shower and spend some time in peace away from the terrible camp conditions – it's been called the worst camp on earth. Many migrants are desperately in need of healthcare, and osteopathy can really help.

 

I'm just going to chip in here, if you'd like to learn a bit more about the refugee camp on Lesvos where Ulli runs the bath house I suggest you watch this BBC Video 

 

Donate to Beckys Bath House Here 

 

 

Could you tell us how the camp run,  is it by the Greek government? Or largely by volunteers like yourselves?


U: This is a big question! And there are lots of different view on this, but the way I understand it is that the camp is run by the Greek police, but all organisation is done by an American charity called Eurorelief, there's been numerous european NGOs who have moved their operation out of the camp as a protest to how badly run it is. The overflow camp, The Olive Grove, next to Moria, is run by a Dutch NGO called Movement on the Ground, and lots of NGOs work outside of the camp and in surrounding areas. 

 

How is the moral of people in the camp? How likely is it that they will be able to move on? Where do they come from?


A: Things are really tough. And unlike during the so-called 'refugee crisis' of 2015, when people would move quite quickly through Europe, and spend just a few days on Lesvos, people are now stuck there for years. I meet people that are looking at waiting two years for an interview. That waiting can be unbearable, and in the meantime people are not allowed to work, the kids cannot join Greek schools. I am working with the unaccompanied minors, the 14-18 year old boys who have arrived without parents, almost all from Afghanistan. Many of them are looking at spending several years in the camp, and their prospects for ultimately being allowed to remain in Europe are not good.

 

How does this compare to others you’ve visited or have knowledge of? 


A: This is my first time to be involved in any sort of refugee camp. I volunteered at the Haringey Migrant Support Centre for several years, assisting migrants who were living in London. The hardships people were dealing with were comparable, but in London people are generally trying to stay where they are, rather then in a state of transit, and so often their needs are less immediate and acute. In London there was far more of a mix by way of nationalities as well – almost everyone we see on Lesvos is Afghani. 

 

 

Adam I have just received a copy of your award winning book ‘Kings of the Yukon’. About your four month journey down the river Yukon, in northern Canada. How did you come to taking on this adventure, when did you do it? 


A: The first time I went to Alaska was in 2013. I went there on a grant, following stories about climate change and oil extraction. While I was there, I came across a story about the decline of the salmon, and how it was affecting one community of Yup'ik fishermen. I wrote a piece about that village [https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/06/when-global-warming-kills-your-god/372015/], and continued to keep an eye on what was happening when I returned to England. In 2014, and then again in 2015, because of the huge crash in numbers, a ban was placed on the catching of king salmon along the entire length of the Yukon River, 2000 miles, in both Alaska and Canada. I knew how much that would affect the many communities, and ecosystems, that depended on it, and started putting together a plan to travel the whole river. I wanted to see how peoples lives were changing, and find out what was causing the decline. I went there in the summer of 2016, and again in 2017.

 

Can you both tell us three of the most significant places that you’ve lived, worked or travelled to that have lead to you being where you are today?


A: Studying for a Masters in Human Ecology at Strathclyde University in Glasgow.  The emphasis of the course – that community lies at the heart of everything we do – and the teachers that led it; the students and other people that I met there; getting wrapped up in activism for the first time; living in a very exciting, vibrant city; exploring Scotland – what I learnt and did that year has fed into everything I've done since.


Walking from England to Istanbul in 2010 – experiencing the self reliance of that, and also how much I came to depend on so many peoples' hospitality and kindness. I wrote a journal for hours every night on that trip, and published the first articles that I got paid for – it was the year that learnt to write, as much as anything else.


Volunteering at the Haringey Migrant Support Centre – coming to understand how much suffering and how much need there is so close to where I live, and the incredible, moving, heartbreaking stories that these people arrive in England with. It made me want to become more involved in trying to help.


U: Moving to the UK from the north of Sweden when I was very young. I was craving culture and conversation, and London really took me in and has taught me so much. Another kind of wilderness to navigate and survive, and I became a musician. 


Coming across osteopathy from damaging my back, I have always had an interest in medicine and I am very practical so when I learnt about osteopathy I felt a real calling that it was for me. During my masters I worked in several charity clinics through my university and this sparked the idea and passion in that osteopathy should be available for people in need and not just for people who can pay for it.  


Travelling down the Yukon with Adam, it was so special to spend a long period of time in a very similar kind of nature to where I am from. It was a wonderful experience to be able to connect to nature in a way I used to do as a child and to remember that slowing down is such an important thing to do. 

 

 

Adam your subjects are very diverse, I have been having a scout through your website and you’ve interviewed some interesting individuals like Rajagopal, founder and leader of Ekta Parishad, the landless people’s movement in India. You then worked on projects like the one in Mulajne, Africa last summer, Staging a play with ex prisoners about the fast diminishing Cedar trees. How do these come about? 


A: Writing first and foremost is a way for me to to try and find answers to the questions that interest me. It's a real privilege, to be able to try and really dig into subjects in that way, to speak to people about their lives in such an open manner. So I suppose I'm led by that when I'm looking around for stories and for subjects. Most of what I do, at its heart, comes back to writing about the environment, but I see that as a very diverse subject, and I'm interested in linking human concerns, like prison reform or land reform, into more traditionally environmental issues.

 

How do you both manage family life and work whilst being at the camp? 


A: Having a family on the island feels really important for us. It can be easy, and I've experienced this, to become quite self-sacrificial, to burn yourself out in the pursuit of a cause that you'll never fully realise. It's a problem for a lot of people working on Lesvos. Having a family to think about as well helps to keep things in perspective, and forces you to take time off to be a good parent, and to look after yourself as well.

 

 

Where did you discover us?


A: Ulli bought me one of your shirts for my birthday last year, and it's the one that I wore when I won the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. It's a shirt I love, and it felt really special to wear it for that.


U: One of our friends James Morgan was wearing your shirt at our yearly Swedish Xmas party and I loved it and asked him where it came from, he told us about your great label. I thought Adam would love it and I did too, so I got some for me as well. 

 

What do you like about H&B clothing?


A: That they're equally appropriate for smart occasions and for wearing to the beach. That the designs are gorgeous, the cuts feel good, and that I'm supporting a small company that started out where I live.


U: I love that your designs are colourful and bold but still stylish and has an edge to the designs. They feel individual.  I agree with Adam that they are easy to wear in all sorts of settings. 

The materials are great, and I love well-made clothing that can last and that gets better with wear and time and I think H&B has all those qualities. 

 

Can you describe your dream item of clothing?


A: I've wanted a hat that I don't feel self conscious in for a long time


U: I've always fancied a beautiful handmade tailored suit. Something that I could wear for years and really live in. 

 

 

If people want to discover more about you, the projects you are both working on and how to support them, where should they go? 



www.ullimattsson.com to listen to my music

www.beckysbathouse.com    Instagram: @ofr_bbh

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/osteopathyforrefugees

www.adamweymouth.com  Twitter: @adamweymouth

 

Favourite music track at the moment. 


A: This week, I've been listening a lot to this John Cale and Brian Eno album from 1990, Wrong Way Up, and this track in particular: Spinning away – Brian Eno and John Cale [https://open.spotify.com/track/62OfxRiHmEDT9qhTTtgt0A?si=7WzWYLa4QX2iFejkg2XtyQ]


U: I keep on coming back to September Fields by Frazey Ford 


 

Ulli Wears our Hiccup print cami jumpsuit and our Blue boating beachy gown from our Summer 19 collection

Adam Wears a pink triangle shirt and Meadow print shirt also from this summer 19 collection. 


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